5 Reasons to accept being on an Advisory Board

Posted on 27 February 2017

Many years ago, I worked with the scientific advisory committee of a medical journal. The editors put in long hours reviewing, judging and selecting articles they considered worthy of publication. Some even helped with their translation.

As a paid staff member, I was impressed by their dedication and eventually asked one of them what it was that drew and attracted them to this responsibility.

“You know, I learn from it every day”, he responded without hesitation. The knowledge I gain enriches my expertise and enhances my professional visibility. Thanks to the network it helped me build up, I landed a great job. You see it advances not only my personal interests but also those of my company.”

There are many potential benefits of engaging and broadening one’s experience through an advisory board.

Most of us are invited at some point to be part of an advisory board for a company, foundation or association.

Many of you may have hesitated, unsure about the expectations and commitment involved. Some may not be very clear as to the precise function of an advisory board, or what they could possibly contribute. Others may be uncertain as to the legal and other implications of taking on such a responsibility, or the demands it might impose on their time.

I would like, through this short article, to begin allaying some of these understandable concerns and, most importantly, encourage you to take the plunge and accept the rewarding challenge to sit on an advisory board.

Unlike a Board of Directors, an advisory board is an informal body that carries no specific legal or fiduciary responsibility. Its principal function is to contribute the knowledge, experience and connections of its members. 

The benefit of such counsel often brings decisive added value to the smooth operation, dynamic development and image of the company concerned. 

There are a number of different types of advisory boards, and the roles that individuals may play on them also vary somewhat. I will develop these differences in greater detail in future articles in this series. All advisory boards share one fundamental common denominator, however, in that they all actively invite their members to contribute their wisdom and expertise. 

Let’s face it, all of us are flattered to be asked to share our knowledge and offer advice. When we can do so in the knowledge that we are advancing a worthy enterprise or cause, the satisfaction and sense of fulfillment is bigger. We should be aware, however, that while no legal liabilities are implied, a seat on an advisory board does carry with it an important moral obligation.

Because a company, foundation or association will usually take into account and often act on the basis of the advice given, each member of the advisory board assumes in good faith the fundamental duty to keep in mind the best interests of the organisation. Whilst time and commitment that needs to be devoted to a seat on an advisory board should not be unduly exaggerated, it should not be underestimated.

Advisory boards are great way of sharing your knowledge and insights. 

It is not a responsibility that can be entered into lightly if the parties are to derive the mutual benefits alluded to at the outset of this article. The two-way rewards and fulfillment involved are very much a function of the member’s willingness to attend meetings on a regular basis and be available as circumstances may require to provide counsel in-between meetings. Keeping abreast of the latest developments in the relevant industry is another dimension that should not be neglected.

Notwithstanding these minor but important caveats, I believe there are five main reasons that should encourage readers to consider accepting a seat on an advisory board:

  1. Being asked to sit on an advisory board directly acknowledges and promotes your expertise and knowledge, as well as the value and depth of your experience.
  2. If you are on an advisory board directly linked to your profession, it will enhance both your credentials and visibility. You will be in a position to establish yourself and be recognised as a thought leader. Your leadership skills could be immeasurably improved - all, of course, to the benefit of your general ‘employability’ and profile on the jobs market.
  3. If you don’t have previous board experience, a seat on an advisory board offers an excellent opportunity to acquire practical experience of effective board functioning and the decision-making process. As such, it serves as an instructive stepping-stone on the road to a board of director’s appointment. 
  4. An advisory board is an excellent vehicle for networking and establishing valuable professional connections. The development of close working ties with other members provides a prominent platform from which to build knowledge and experience around a particular industry.
  5. It is gratifying to see your advice being applied and to follow the positive impacts it has on your company, foundation or association.

In conclusion, when invited to sit on an advisory board consider carefully the many positives that may be gained by sharing your knowledge and interacting with others and you will find that the benefits outweight by far the more demanding sides. Even if these benefits will require serious commitment and dedication on your part. 

Do not accept, therefore, unless you are absolutely certain you have the requisite time and motivation to succeed. Restricting one’s ambition to simply being a passive member of a board can very quickly prove counterproductive and even risks having a negative impact on your reputation and professional standing.

It only remains for me to wish you every success and fulfillment on your next advisory board assignment! Naturally, I am most interested to receive feedback regarding the pros and cons of accepting a position on an advisory board and wholeheartedly encourage you to share your experiences.

 

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